People alarmed by some of the more outrageous claims about the new “Common Core” standards — as well as the accompanying “Next Generation Science Standards” — should breathe easier following recent developments.
One bright spot is that, as the first state to adopt the Common Core’s more rigorous academic standards in math and language arts, Kentucky is making significant progress.
Kentucky’s high school graduation rate has increased and students are better prepared for college, according to preliminary information based on testing during the 2012-13 school year that Gov. Steve Beshear and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday released Tuesday.
The other good news is that the national business community, concerned by a seemingly irrational backlash against Common Core, is rallying to support the need for the more rigorous educational standards, particularly in science, engineering, math and technology.
Some conservative groups have begun attacking — with no basis in fact — the voluntary, state-led effort to upgrade standards as a “federal government takeover” of education or some sort of liberal indoctrination of students. Many object to the fact the standards call for teaching evolution without including creationism, the religious belief God created the world, and also that they include climate change.
Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson, a member of the prestigious Business Roundtable, suggests in a recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal that it’s time to put an end to such nonsense and rally around Common Core for the sake of a better educated workforce.
“With these education standards under attack in many states where they have been adopted or are being considered, the Common Core needs support now more than ever if America is going to reverse its education decline and prepare its young people to compete in today’s dynamic global economy,” he wrote.
Mr. Tillerson said that states must be willing to upgrade standards and develop more rigorous curriculum so students will graduate with skills they need to meet the demands of employers.
And it’s not just business and industry that need more qualified people. Mr. Tillerson points out that the U.S. armed forces must turn away about 30 percent of high school graduates who can’t pass the entrance exam.
Lee Todd, the former president of the University of Kentucky and a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had a similar message when he appeared before a state legislative committee in June to urge lawmakers to move forward with all possible speed on the new standards.
“Speed is important,” he said. “We can’t take time to gnaw on things.”
It’s a message not all Kentucky lawmakers have embraced. Last week a panel rejected new science standards developed by national experts and designed as a companion to Common Core standards in math and language courses.
Gov. Beshear, who has the power to enact the science standards, did so anyway.
And Tuesday, he joined Commissioner Holliday to report that the state’s prior adoption of Common Core standards is paying off in improved graduation rates and college readiness among Kentucky’s high school students.
“It’s a story that needs to be told,” Gov. Beshear said, according to a story Wednesday by The Courier-Journal’s Antoinette Konz.
Kentucky’s education leadership is a refreshing contrast to that of Indiana, where fainthearted officials backed down after a misguided group called “Hoosiers Against Common Core” began whipping up opposition “against the federal and corporate takeover of our children’s public school classrooms.” The standards have been suspended in Indiana.
Kentucky must press on. As Mr. Todd said, “Speed is important.”